January 19, 2022 News & Press Releases

What Virginians Are Seeing: Virginia Democrats and Parents Are Standing Up to Gov. Youngkin’s Illegal Executive Order

by Democratic Party of Virginia

Richmond, VA —In response to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order rescinding mask requirements in schools as COVID-19 cases surge and his threats to defund school systems that are rejecting his illegal order, Virginia Democrats and parents across the Commonwealth are standing up for the health and safety of students. 

On Monday, January 17, School Divisions Across Virginia Rejected Glenn Youngkin’s Illegal Executive Order Rescinding Mask Requirements in Schools

From Arlington to Albemarle, school divisions across Virginia are rejecting the Governor's dangerous anti-science executive actions and keeping mask requirements in schools to ensure the health and safety of K-12 students. 

Click here for the full list of Virginia school divisions that are rejecting Gov. Youngkin’s illegal order. 

On Tuesday, January 17, House and Senate Democrats Held a Press Conference on Glenn Youngkin Threatening to Defund Virginia Schools Over Masks

On Tuesday, House and Senate Democrats held a press conference on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s threat to use official state resources to defund Virginia schools after school divisions across the Commonwealth rejected the governor’s illegal executive order. 

Gov. Youngkin’s executive order rejects the science and violates Senate Bill 1303, which was signed into Virginia law last year. This law ensures that students are kept safe while receiving the maximum amount of in-person instruction time. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support from the entire Republican caucus, including Speaker Todd Gilbert and every Republican Senator, who voted for the legislation. 

On Wednesday, January 19, Parents from Chesapeake Sue Gov. Youngkin Over Illegal Order

On Wednesday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that parents from Chesapeake filed suit in the Virginia Supreme Court against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s illegal executive order that rescinds mask requirements in schools across Virginia. 


NBC 4 Washington: Parents Sue Over Virginia Governor's Order Lifting School Mask Mandate

By Sarah Rankin

Virginia's new Republican governor was facing pushback from Democratic lawmakers, school districts and a group of parents who sued him Tuesday over an executive order that aims to create an opt-out for classroom mask mandates. [...]

The 2021 law says each Virginia school board is required to offer in-person instruction that adheres “to the maximum extent practicable” to COVID-19 mitigation guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC currently recommends universal masking by anyone 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status. [...]

Many districts — from Charlottesville to Richmond to Arlington — cited that law in announcing that they had no plans to immediately change masking rules. Others said they were reviewing the guidance or waiting for further clarity from the state, while at least two, King George County and Louisa County, announced plans to comply.

On Tuesday, a group of parents of children in Chesapeake Public Schools sued the governor and members of his administration in the Supreme Court of Virginia, arguing that the executive order violates state law.

“Petitioners have no adequate remedy at law and no time to spare. They and their children are likely to suffer irreparable harm and damage if this Court declines to grant immediate relief,” they wrote. [...] 

Democrats accused him of overstepping his authority on the mask order, ignoring the state law and attempting to bully local school districts.

“I'm disappointed that, you know, right out of the gate we’re focused on culture wars rather than the goals of educating children,” said Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, a public school teacher.

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Parents from Chesapeake sue Youngkin, saying school mask order conflicts with state law

By Jessica Nocera, Mel Leonor, Patrick Wilson 

A group of Chesapeake parents filed a lawsuit against Gov. Glenn Youngkin Tuesday, arguing that an executive order that scrapped the statewide school mask mandate, and gave parents an opt-out from local mandates, thwarts state law. [...]

Some of the state’s largest school districts — including Richmond, Norfolk and the counties of Henrico, Arlington and Fairfax — say they will continue to require masks, citing the 2021 state law. [...]

Democratic lawmakers from the House and the Senate said in a news conference Tuesday that Youngkin does not have the authority to withdraw public funding from school districts over their masking policies. They strongly criticized the executive order and Earle-Sears’ funding threat.

Earle-Sears said Monday in a Fox News interview that “there are certain combinations of monies that we send to the ... local school boards, and [Youngkin] could withhold some of that. And he could possibly, if the law allows, even give the parents the ability to decide what schools their children should attend. So we’re going to look at all of that.”

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said Tuesday that Democrats in the legislature would support school divisions in keeping the mask mandates in place.

“The science is clear: Masks and social distancing limit the risk of children and adults catching COVID. We now have a new, more contagious variant. Another surge that is putting even more stress on our school system,” McClellan said. “We will not let the governor overstep his authority and bully our school systems.” [...]

McClellan was joined by Del. Jeff Bourne of Richmond, Sen. Ghazala Hashmi of Chesterfield, and Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg of Henrico.

Hashmi said that many parents reaching out to her are worried about COVID-19 safety measures going away. McClellan, VanValkenburg and Bourne — all parents of school-age children — said they worry about their kids contracting COVID-19 at school.

“I’m not sure exactly which parents [Youngkin’s] been talking to because I’ve been receiving emails and phone calls and have had personal conversations with parents who are my constituents, who are actually quite worried now about their children’s health and safety,” Hashmi said, adding that it is of special concern to children and siblings who are too young to be vaccinated.

Democrats argue that the law passed last year calling on school districts to hold in-person classes also requires the districts to follow CDC guidance. The CDC, which cannot issue binding policy, recommends universal mask-wearing in schools.

VanValkenburg, who helped craft the final language with then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration, said the bill was designed to keep schools open through mitigation strategies that would prevent the spread of COVID-19 in school buildings. The Northam administration at one point last year relied on the new law to call on districts to require masks; it later issued its own statewide mask mandate through the state health commissioner.

VanValkenburg pointed to the school district in Colonial Heights, which had to close for virtual learning last week because of staffing shortages fueled by COVID-19 infections. [...]

“I would also remind everyone that the last time the state tried to step in and override local school boards on decisions that were made was Massive Resistance,” McClellan said, referring to the state’s policy, beginning in 1956, to prevent racial integration in public schools.

The Washington Post: Va. parents file lawsuit, schools vow resistance against Youngkin’s order making masks optional

By Hannah Natanson 

A major showdown over masking in Virginia schools — already involving at least one lawsuit — is brewing between newly minted Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and parents and superintendents across the state he was just elected to lead.

Youngkin, who took office Saturday, started his term as Virginia’s 74th governor with an executive order that declares masking optional in school systems statewide, subject to the preference of parents. Although some school districts complied almost immediately, other superintendents promised defiance — including the superintendent in Youngkin’s new home, Richmond. Jason Kamras, the head of Richmond Public Schools, vowed in a tweet over the weekend to keep his district’s mask mandate and told The Washington Post, “We will fight it to the end.” [...] 

The masking order “purports to sweep aside masking mandates and other protections with little or no consideration of or respect for CDC guidance, actions taken by the Virginia General Assembly, or the powers vested in school boards,” reads the 46-page Chesapeake parents’ lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Democratic lawmakers chimed in as well: “Gov. Youngkin is on shaky ground at best, telling the local school board what they can and can’t do,” Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne (D-Richmond) said Tuesday. “Their powers and responsibilities are enshrined in our laws and our state constitution.”

13 News Now: Democrats say Youngkin's school mask rollback violates Virginia law

By Mike Gooding 

At least 16 school divisions across Virginia have said they are evaluating how to react to Governor Glenn Youngkin's order to roll back mask mandates.

But General Assembly Democrats say the order violates state law, and they are prepared to fight it. [...]

"The communities as a whole will suffer," said Del. Kelly Covirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach). "It will all be because we did not listen to our teachers when they asked for help. We did not listen to our teachers, something every child learns in kindergarten."

House and Senate Democrats said Tuesday that Youngkin's order violates state law, and they're willing to do whatever it takes to fight Youngkin on the mask mandate rollback, even taking him to court if need be.

"If he were to try and withhold funding from public school divisions, we're not going to take any action off the table," said Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond). "Because it's our belief we need to do any and everything to protect the students, the staff, the teachers."

In a news release, the Democratic Party of Virginia called Youngkin's order "illegal" and said it "puts our children’s health and safety at risk as COVID-19 surges, and threatens in-person learning across the Commonwealth."

WTVR News 6: Parents file lawsuit to keep masks in Virginia schools

By Jake Burns, 01/18/2022

A group of parents from Chesapeake is suing Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin over an executive order signed this weekend that his administration said would allow parents to opt their children out of mask requirements at Virginia schools. [...] 

Virginia Democrats called on Youngkin to rescind the order, during a Tuesday morning press conference.

“We support our school divisions doing what they need to do to keep our children, adults in our school buildings safe. We will not let the Governor overstep his authority,” Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) said.

Democrats cited the state law and CDC guidance on masking in schools. The Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends universal masking in school settings, saying masks have proven an effective tool in slowing COVID transmission.

“It’s going to lead to more kids testing positive, more teachers testing positive. And while the omicron variant is less dangerous than ones in the past, it still means they’re out of the building,” said Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg (D - Henrico), who is a high school teacher. “Our schools are already strained. We have severe staff shortages and teacher shortages because they’re out sick. We have large segments to the student body absent because they are sick, tested positive. That’s a problem.”